The little penguin, also known as the little blue penguin, fairy penguin, Eudyptula minor, korora, or just blue penguin, is a species of small penguin that lives on rocky shores and coastal estuaries.
Eudyptula minor is a small, brightly-colored seabird native to Australia, New Zealand, and the surrounding islands. The species also goes by the nickname little penguin to distinguish it from other types of penguins in the family Spheniscidae, such as the white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula albosignata).
At less than 18 inches (45 cm) tall and weighing only 3 pounds (1.5 kg), this species fits into the little category alongside its cousins.
The little blue penguin is one of only three species of penguin endemic to New Zealand, the other two being the Fiordland penguin and the erect-crested penguin. Despite their name, little blue penguins are actually slate-grey in color with black beaks and feet and pale-blue feathers on their flanks.
Little penguin facts and description
The little penguins (also known as korora) are just one of 17 penguin species. They’re the smallest and gentlest of them all, which makes them a perfect mascot for protecting the Great Barrier Reef! In fact, they are so awesome, that some people have called them the littlest guardian of our oceans.
The fairy penguins live around Australia’s coast and eat fish, squid, octopus, shrimp, crabs, and urchins! Their average life span is 10-15 years but this could be longer because there aren’t many humans trying to hunt them down these days. Kororas also mate in October and lay eggs two months later, in December or January.
Little penguin scientific name
The little penguin scientific name is Eudyptula minor.
Little penguin habitat
Little penguins spend their days out at sea searching for food near the shore. Often, they congregate in groups referred to as rafts.
They live in all of southern Australia as well as Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands.
Little Penguins only occur in temperate oceans with water temperatures in the range of 13 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius.
Little penguin size and weight
The average weight of an adult korora is about 1.5 kilograms and they can grow up to be 30 to 33 cm (12 to 13 inches) tall, meaning that their weight-to-height ratio isn’t too high. Their length is also around 43 cm. So if you ever happen to run into one on a beach, it’s likely not going to be threatening unless it’s hungry!
Feathers and plumage
The little blue penguin is a type of penguin, and it gets its name from its plumage. Adults are predominantly blue or black, with gray underparts. They have white cheeks and sometimes a small yellow stripe on their head. Younger birds can be distinguished by a brown hue to their feathers that become bluer as they age.
Little blue penguins do not live on ice like other penguins, but instead, live on land. When their feathers become too heavy for their little wings to fly, they go through a process called molting.
They stop eating and drinking so their body has time to rest and renew themselves with new feathers. This period of molting can last up to 4 weeks. The penguin will lose almost 60% of its body weight! During this time, the penguin is vulnerable to predators. Once they are finished molting, they will have a new set of shiny feathers!
Nesting season for little blue penguins begins in September and can last as late as March. Males return first to their nesting site, accompanied by a female, who incubates the eggs while he stands on guard duty and takes care of his partner.
When fairy penguin females arrive at a nest, males show them where to start digging and bring them nest material while they stand watch, occasionally peeking over the rim of the nest when they think an intruder is coming too close.
Little penguin diet and foraging
Unlike most other penguins, who primarily feed on fish and krill, the little blue penguin has a varied diet that includes crustaceans and mollusks. The penguin will dive up to 20 meters deep to hunt for prey using their powerful claws to break through, in search of food. They are able to hunt at night when others cannot, giving them an advantage over predators.
Sounds and vocal behavior
Their sounds are typically described as squawking, honking, or chuckling. They have one of the longest vocalizations among penguins and are easily recognizable by their most common call: ‘kaw-rook’.
The sound that resembles human laughter has often been thought to be due to gas buildup in its stomach. Scientists now believe this noise actually serves as a mating call during mating season, with both male and female alike emitting it to find a partner. They have other vocalizations as well, though.
Little penguin life cycle
In general, Little Blue Penguins begin breeding between the ages of two and three. The first egg may be laid between May and August, or between June and August, in some locations.
A study found that older adults are more likely to have two clutches than young adults, and their eggs and chicks thrive above average. This is different from other species of penguins.
On average, most females and males stay together and make long-term pairs. The male bird usually arrives first and selects a nesting site, which may be a last year’s nest or a new one that he has excavated himself with his bill and feet. He then stands before the nest and waits for the female.
It prefers to live in thick grasses that root under the surface, but sometimes nests can be found in rock crevices or caves. It digs a burrow around two meters away from any other, and it lines them with grasses, leaves, or seaweed.
Some of the most popular spots for bird nests are building crannies, piles of wood, and railroad tracks. There are nest boxes placed for them in some areas.
Each egg weighs approximately 54g (1.9oz) and is laid two to three days apart. A female bird lays an egg, which is incubated for 35 days by the male bird. The male bird takes care of the incubation of the eggs during the female bird’s extensive foraging trip.
The female returns to her nest after about 35 days, when she begins to incubate and forage equally. They care for both chicks equally as proud parents.
Adult birds take turns every day to look after and feed the chicks for about six weeks.
When the chicks grow up, they venture from the nest and wait for the adults to come back with food. As this happens, parents often forage and feed the developing chicks together.
As early as eight weeks old, these baby chicks are now juveniles the same size as their parents, they’ve molted and they’ve developed waterproof feathers. They can now get by on their own.
Little penguin lifespan
The little penguin can live up to 6 years in the wild. May live more than that, up to 25 years, in captivity with proper care.